Thanks as always to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for hosting the Year in Books project, where bloggers post their book of the month.
Last month, I read Anne Tyler's latest book 'A Spool of Blue Thread', which I was also reading for my non-virtual book group.
In this novel, we are introduced to the Whitshank family, at the point where ageing parents Abby and Red are starting to cause their children some concern. Abby is becoming slightly disorientated, and Red is very deaf, and can no longer maintain their home as he once used to.
Adult son Stem and family move in with Abby and Red, at the same time as prodigal son Denny makes one of his sporadic reappearances. This causes conflict, and the first half of the book reveals decisions made in their childhood, by Abby, which have ultimately led to their simmering sibling rivalry.
The second half of the book explores the family history of their immediate antecedents, and tells the story of how Abby and Red met, which is slightly different to Abby's telling of the story over the years.
The telling, re-telling, and interpretation of family stories is one of the main themes of the novel; how family history morphs into family folk lore and becomes altered and romanticised over generations.
How families are viewed from within, and from without, is another theme. Family celebrations, events, or holidays that may be judged by the outside world as being happy and harmonious, may feel very different when viewed from within.
I have read many of Anne Tyler's book over the years, and always enjoy her clear-eyed depictions of people struggling with the enormity, or the minutiae, of life. Her characters are always drawn with a tender regard for human frailty. 'A Spool of Blue Thread', however, was not my favourite novel of hers. Although some passages were an absolute joy to read, and Abby's character, in particular, was warm and eccentric, some sections did not hold my interest as much. Perhaps my expectations were unfairly high, as I usually love her work so much. Having said that, I would still recommend this book to others, and it will be staying on my bookshelf.
My book choice this month is 'The Aftermath' by Rhidian Brook.
This is also my book choice for my non-virtual book group. As I have explained before, I am fortunate to be a member of a very committed, long running book group, and this month it is my turn to choose our book.
When selecting a book for the book group, I try to choose one that looks well written; seems to have an interesting story, and has broad moral, social or ethical themes that will encourage wide ranging discussion. Additionally, it should be one that is new to all readers, including me.
'The Aftermath', described as 'Profoundly moving, beautifully written' ('Independent'), tells the story of Rachael Morgan, who is reunited with her British husband in the ruins of post war Hamburg, in 1946. He has been charged with overseeing the rebuilding of the city, and Rachael is stunned to discover that they will be sharing their new home with the previous German owners, a German widower, and his troubled daughter.
Issues of grief, forgiveness, guilt and love are explored, so I am hoping that this will be not only an excellent read, but will also provide good fodder for discussion.
Whilst looking for potential questions for the forthcoming discussion of 'The Aftermath', I found this page, on the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group site, which gives excellent suggestions for book group questions; tips on meetings, and suggestions of how to start a book group, for anyone who is thinking of setting up a group but is not quite sure how to take the plunge.